22nd October 2020

I am Still Here: Jo Shoba

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When Jo was invited to a lung health check, she wasn’t worried. She felt fit and well and had no symptoms. That didn’t stop her being diagnosed with lung cancer. However, thanks to the Liverpool Healthy Lung Programme, Jo’s lung cancer was caught early and she was able to have surgery to remove the tumour. She’s now encouraging others to do our bit and prioritise our health.

I definitely did not realise that it is something you could have surgery for and walk away. However, when the consultant used that word curative I first thought, ‘Oh! You might just be cured!’

I had begun attending the Liverpool Healthy Lung Programme at the end of last year and had spirometry test and then a CT scan. I then went on to have a PET scan and finally a biopsy in April. It was obvious that something was being investigated but I think I had all kinds of words for it and cancer was not one of those words.

The moment of truth came when I had that final CT scan and biopsy and the consultant said ‘And so, I’ll be referring you for surgery’ and my heart just contracted. That’s when I really felt I had a diagnosis of lung cancer. Because all that time, it just seemed so unlikely because I was so well.

My initial thought was – ‘I can’t do this now’ because we were in the situation with coronavirus. I had not at that stage shared any of this with my daughter who lives in Glasgow so she was totally unaware. She would worry, obviously. She wouldn’t be able to visit me so I really thought ‘Let’s delay this’, especially as I was being told that this was very early stage and slow growing.

When the chief consultant phoned a week late, I said to him that I was hoping I could kick this down the road. He paused and asked ‘How far down the road?’ to which I replied ‘Maybe six months or so?!’

He response was clear that although this was very early stage and very slow growing, cancer is utterly unpredictable. He told me he could have me in within a week and perform curative surgery. Needless to say, that’s what we did.

I’m at the stage now where I really can’t believe how lucky I have been. It was hard after the operation and I was terribly lonely under lockdown, but, to be back a matter of months since my operation feeling fit, joining in with things that make up the fabric of my life, is pretty amazing.

I know of people who have not followed up on the invitation for the lung health check. I suppose it’s understandable. You don’t want to go there. You don’t think it really has anything to do with you. It’s just a very general check of the population but my experience says – ‘You don’t know what you don’t know!’

I didn’t see myself at any kind of risk of lung cancer. I suppose the only thing would be thinking about my teenage years when I did smoke. I do remember a few years ago being a bit chesty, a cough that wouldn’t shift – but then it shifted so I didn’t think anything else about it.

But whether it’s something or nothing that is the cause of those symptoms, the earlier you find out about it, the better and maybe it’s about valuing yourself too. There’s an onus on us to do our bit and if we’re being told it would be a good thing to have a check-up, then have it.

If you value your health, why wouldn’t you have it checked?